Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pants Optional

I work from home.  Aside from exchanging e-mails with my office in Seattle, I do not interact with anyone.  No bosses hanging over my shoulder, no customers, no coworkers, no vendors.  The dog, rats, and guinea pigs are my only companions during the day, and they don't bring much in the way of office drama. I can work any hour of the day, and if I need to take a day off, I take a day off.  My "commute" involves grabbing a mug of tea and moseying down to my office in the basement, and my work uniform can be jammie pants, regular pants, no pants, or a mariachi outfit with a fruit turban, if I so choose. Perhaps you are thinking "Wow!  You are so lucky!" or "You sad, freakish loner!"  The correct answer is YES!

People often ask me if I get lonely doing what I do.  Well, sometimes, but as an introvert, this generally suits me very well.  I wouldn't say I'm suffering due to lack of workplace interaction. Au contraire. I've had my share of tyrannical bosses, crazy coworkers, nightmarish customers, and I don't feel a burning desire to go back to that.  Most people seem to take job-related drama, meltdowns, intense stupidity, and other assorted bullshit in stride, accepting it as a reality of working life.  I feel it is something to be avoided at all costs, and am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to do just that. Dealing with humanity in a customer service capacity invariably leads to soul-crushing bitterness for me, so it's really best for all of us if I don't do it.

Even though I enjoy working from home, I do think it's important to not wander completely off into Hermitville and turn "funny".  Even introverts need to be around people some of the time, and so the human contact I don't get from work, I seek elsewhere in my free time.  I have volunteering, martial arts, Derby Lite, the gym, and usually a couple get-togethers every week. These activities are all incredibly fun and satisfying, and they force me to, you know, practice human speech and put on some type of clothing that doesn't scream "I've given up on life!"

If you're a weirdo recluse like me who is considering a career in the loner arts, let me tell you it does have its downsides.  It's not always party, party, party, watching videos of baby sloths (slowly) eat green beans, diving face first into giant bowls of popcorn, taking three-hour lunches, using Scotch tape to make yourself resemble Quasimodo, etc.  You do have a JOB to perform, after all, and to perform well. Since you don't have someone breathing down your neck all day, YOU have to make sure you stay on track and meet deadlines. This means minimizing distractions and saving housework for off-work hours. That pile of laundry can wait. I know what you're thinking --"but I'm so disciplined!"  Believe you me, one episode of Drunk History can turn into four and derail anyone's productivity.

Even though working in the comfort of your home is pretty dope, it can also make you stir crazy.  At the end of the workday, you may want nothing more than to get the hell out of the house, perhaps (most inconveniently) as your significant other is coming home from their job, wanting nothing more than to stay in. This brings me to my final point.  Presumably at some point in the day you will need to leave the house and/or encounter other humans, so for god's sake, don't eschew personal hygiene. Sporting B.O. or Medieval mouth is Hermitville-territory stuff, and I don't think you want to go there.  Soap, deodorant, and toothpaste are essential parts of your workday.  The fruit turbans, though, those are optional.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Kingdom(e) of Darkness

Sometimes I miss Seattle.  Well, bits of it.  I miss my old posse.  I've fallen out of touch with most of them, but they're never far from my mind.  I miss the dive bars (The Viking!  The People's Pub!  Al's!); the way the city is saturated in music and book stores; the lush, dense parks populated by ferns and mushrooms; the plant life bursting forth from every conceivable space; those two and a half months of summer when the weather is perfect and there are festivals every weekend; the way you can't lob a Doc Marten without hitting a great restaurant.

I wish I could miss all of Seattle and not just bits of it.  I wish I could see it the way others see it, idolize and romanticize it, love it the way it deserves to be loved -- and I say that with total sincerity.  It is a beautiful green jewel nestled between misty mountains and cold, dark water; an intellectual, progressive Mecca; the epicenter of so many exciting things.  Unfortunately, I can't think of Seattle without experiencing negative feelings.  It will always stir up regret, embarrassment, sadness, anger.  It is forever inextricably linked to icky memories: awkward, painful teenage years when priorities were completely out of whack, potential was squandered, and the only sport I lettered in was Making an Ass of Myself on a Daily Basis; the college years, which were more about getting through classes without speaking or, you know, being visible than actually experiencing anything or interacting with anyone; the years after graduation where I stagnated in bad jobs and ill-fitting relationships...

Perhaps you think I'm looking at the past through puke-colored glasses, but I recently went through my old diaries from high school and college and they confirmed that I was indeed a miserable little shit for a huge chunk of the time I lived in Seattle. Maybe I should cut myself a little slack.  You're supposed to be kind of a dumbass when you're young, right?  After all, that is how we learn and grow.  But asking me not to dwell on mistakes of the past is like asking me not to breathe.  I still relive awkward conversations from ten years ago and cringe as though they happened yesterday.

Yeah.  Lame.

Alas, there will always be a dark cloud present when I think of Seattle, and I'm not talking about the shitty weather.  I will not be able to adore it wholeheartedly until I am able to envision it without a lesser version of myself staring back.  But for all the emotional  muck it dredges up, I am grateful for my time in Seattle -- first for the friends that I made, and second because if things hadn't gotten so crappy for me there, I never would have moved back to Colorado, where I've gotten a major life do-over.

By the way, that sport I lettered in in high school, Making an Ass of Myself on a Daily Basis?  When it comes to that, I've gone f***king pro.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

It was the Beast of Times: A Year in Review

I don't usually go out and party on New Year's Eve.  Most years I'm in jammies and asleep before the clocks flips over to midnight.  It's just an arbitrary marker, really, but it gives me an excuse to take a day off, and that's something I can always get behind.  But as I tack up a new complementary Natural Grocers 2014 calendar above my desk, it's hard not to reflect on the past cluster of months we call "2013" and try to sum up the experiences contained therein to see whether it qualifies as a "good year" or "bad year".  As years go, I suppose it was an interesting one.  It lacked the rosy glow of '82 and the heels-first dive into life of '98, but thankfully it did not sink into the soul-grinding dreariness of '07.  A few big things went down this year -- some good, some crap, and some things that started out as crap and became good.

Started out as crap:  2013 kicked off with my retirement from roller derby after 3 1/2 years.  I didn't officially retire until April, but the last time I went to practice was January.  I took those four months as a leave of absence to decide if retiring was what I really wanted to do.  It was an incredibly painful and difficult decision, involving lots of talks with close family and friends, negotiating with myself, crying, snot bubbles, the whole deal.  The best way I can describe my separation from derby is this: It was like breaking up with the coolest, most fun boyfriend/girlfriend ever, not because they're a jerk or anything, but because you know they are completely and utterly wrong for you.  God, it really f***ing sucked, but I knew I had to do it.  My heart just wasn't in it anymore.  Looking back, I know that all the heartache (and snot bubbles) was really over leaving the people, leaving the derby community.  I do love the sport itself and feel lucky to have been a part of it, but in the end I had a very unhealthy relationship with it and had to walk away.

Good: No more derby meant I had a lot of free time on my hands.  I'm not gonna lie -- it was fantastic.  But being a person who likes to keep busy (albeit with something that isn't totally stressful), I needed to fill these new gaps in my schedule with an activity.  I'd always been interested in martial arts, so Kevin and I began learning Hapkido* together.  I admit it was kind of weird transitioning from a sport where I trained with a bunch of super competitive women smashing into each other, to training in a small dojo with mainly dudes.  It wasn't a bad thing -- just different.  Fate, destiny, quantum mechanics, whatever you want to call it, surely led me here, though.  Derby sadly left my confidence in tatters, but Hapkido put it back together again, thanks in no small part to our teachers -- two incredible human beings that I feel privileged to have met and from whom I have learned so much these past nine months.

[*most people have never heard of Hapkido.  Here is a really cool show that demonstrates what it is:]

Good: This brings us to about the middle of 2013, when one of the biggest things of the year happened: buying our first house.  It happened very quickly, from beginning our search to signing papers, and before we knew it we were moving into our little bungalow.  Even though it is not always rainbows and unicorns and there is a to-do list that stretches from here to eternity, we are overjoyed to have a home of our own.  Even six months later I catch myself thinking, wow, this is really ours.  Teeeee!  It feels great.  It feels like we are finally grown-ups.

As summer slid into fall and we really began to settle into the house, I took up 5k training again and ran the Monster Dash in October.  It seems like everyone and their grandma just goes out and does 5ks all the time, like, "Oh, I think I'll go run a 5k this weekend, ho-hum," but I had to train.  I'm in reasonably good shape, but I've never been a runner and could not run five consecutive blocks, let alone 5 km.  I did Running Mate's couch to 5k program, where you start out jogging in one-minute intervals and work your way up to 30 minutes in eight weeks.  It was sorcery, I tell you, because I ran that entire SOB without stopping.  I still dislike running (mainly because it's hard on my old-people knees), but I was so stoked that I did it.  I thought, well, shit, if I can run this, I can do almost anything.

What started out as crap and became good:  At the beginning of the year, when I was contemplating leaving derby, I read a horoscope (I know, shh) that said something like "You will break the chains that have bound you to something unhealthy and reforge your relationship with it in a positive way."  I know horoscopes are vague and can be applied to almost anyone, but in my sad, vulnerable state, I read a lot into it.  It was clearly referring to roller derby. Darn tootin' I needed to break those chains, but how am I going to reforge my relationship with it?  Can I change my mindset and ever go back?  Not bloody likely.  I received the answer to the riddle when a chapter of Derby Lite started up right here in our neighborhood in October.  It's a once-a-week class offering all the bits of derby I love (hanging out with cool people, exercise, working on skating skills) and none of the bad bits (bouting, stress, burnout, frustration, drama, getting hurt).  I was so happy to pull out my bin of booty shorts, knee-high socks, and legwarmers again that I almost cried, especially the legwarmers my homie MA had made special for me -- the ones that say "Beastmaster" on them.  [dabs eyes]

Really, really bad:  The end of October and beginning of November were awful.  Kevin's cousin Mark passed away suddenly, and less than two weeks later his mother succumbed to Alzheimer's disease.  We flew to Boston twice for back-to-back funerals.  It was absolutely heartbreaking.  Times like that remind you how precious life is and how important it is not to take anything for granted.  It made me want to call my grandma and tell her I love her, and I did.  So should you.  It'll make someone's day.

Unfortunately the end of the year marks a sad anniversary for me, made even more poignant after losing Mark and Eleanor and being reminded that life is uncertain.  This New Years Day makes seven years exactly since the last time my oldest brother spoke to me.  Seven years is a long time for siblings not to speak, right?  The reason behind it is a long and not very interesting story, but I assure you it was a disagreement most "normal" people would have made up over ages ago.  I've tried to reach out to him and gotten no response, so I wait...  I always wonder, will this be the year I hear from him?  After all this time I don't cling to hope, but if he decides to contact me, it will be a pleasant surprise.  Of course, our relationship will never be the same again.  Having your oldest brother act like you have ceased to exist kind of shatters your heart.  But I'm willing, if he is willing, to put the pieces back together.

I don't want to end this on a depressing note.  Despite these sad times, life goes on and I really do have a great deal to be thankful for and look forward to.  I will continue to strive to be a better human being, to do some good in the world, and to learn as many new things as I can.  Luckily, life is easier with great friends and The World's Best Husband by my side.  May 2014 be a totally bitchin' year for all of us.

[Editing note:  I originally wrote six years since last my brother spoke to me, and then I thought about it and realized, holy shit, it's actually been seven.  Either way, it's still a ridiculously long-ass time.]